Pre-loved items of furniture are reborn through marquetry and embroidery, the inlaid aesthetics challenge us to re-evaluate our connection to items from the past. No longer just utilitarian, but now unique works of contemporary art, these pieces pay homage to craftsmanship and material value.
Rauemi Taiao /Material Nature is about valuing wood as a natural resource and fostering an appreciation for good quality furniture and the declining timber species that go into making them. The original furniture crafted from rare raw materials has been salvaged from landfill, skips, and op-shops. All of these items have undergone artistic up-cycling intervention in appreciation of the materials used.
Although marquetry is a rarely utilised art form in New Zealand, it has been used for centuries in many parts of the world as a form of both illustrative and abstract embellishment. Self-taught in marquetry, Katy’s work combines both traditional hand-cut and engraved elements with laser-cutting technology.
Her work is inspired by 19th Century British Arts and Crafts artist William Morris’s nature designs for wallpapers and textiles, and embroideries by his daughter May Morris. Embroidery enables illustrative imagery to be integrated into furniture in a time-honoured way that complements the quality of the furniture.
“As a woodworker I have witnessed a troubling decline in availability and accessibility in native and even non-native timbers within a very short time. Alongside this, every week mid-century pieces of furniture are being discarded, with little knowledge of the rare materials and craftsmanship that has gone into their making. So many items of old furniture do not get a second chance despite being perfectly intact and performing just as well as the day they were made, it is disheartening.”
Katy’s artistic interventions are a way of challenging us to ‘look again’. She asks visitors to appreciate why these items have endured so many years, to reconnect with items they may have grown up with and keep good quality pieces of furniture out of landfill.
Katy Cottrell received a MFA with Design from Massey University in 2020. In 2015 she founded Economate, a social enterprise which facilitates the diversion of waste from construction to community and education projects. She currently teaches design technology at Onslow College and is also a Teaching Fellow with Victoria University. She is also a member of the Marquetry Society. Katy has exhibited at Toi Poneke, Furniture Memoirs, 2020 and Massey’s Exposure 2019.
To find out more about Katy Cottrell’s work: